Long since, diversity within the workforce is recognized to produce better business results. But having diverse demographics and employees alone won’t suffice – companies need to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion for maximum effect.
Employees working for companies that prioritize DEI tend to be happier, less prone to presenteeism and more productive. Here are a few steps you can take to create an inclusive workplace:
An organization may hire individuals with various backgrounds and perspectives, yet if these employees don’t feel valued and included, that doesn’t constitute true diversity. That’s where equity and inclusion come in to play.
Diversity refers to all the ways people differ from each other; such differences could include age, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and more. People are considered diverse based on both personal characteristics as well as belonging to social groups with differing cultural backgrounds or political viewpoints.
Inclusion refers to a company’s efforts in making sure their employees feel as though they belong, their contributions are valued, and that they can reach their full potential. While inclusivity can take various forms, one definition often used is making sure everyone feels included within the workplace environment and that all needs are being fulfilled.
Inclusion requires businesses to go the extra mile in their policies and culture changes in order to create an atmosphere in which all groups feel included and valued in the workplace. It means overcoming unconscious bias (stereotypes that form unknowingly) as well as giving all employees equal voice within the company.
As the global environment increasingly faces challenges, companies must foster environments in which employees can flourish. Studies indicate that diverse companies tend to outshone their competitors through greater innovation and agility as customers benefit from having access to an array of perspectives and experiences from which these diverse employees bring into the fold.
However, success does not come easily. Some organizations fear embracing diversity out of fear it will create more issues than it solves; others find themselves mired in an endless loop where well-intended policies go unimplemented; still others see diversity’s benefits too great to ignore; the key to success lies in creating a workplace environment in which all employees, from Black mothers to non-binary engineers at engineering departments feel welcome and capable of contributing their skillset at work.
Workplace inclusivity may seem an intimidating challenge at first. Terms such as diversity, inclusion and equity can seem interchangeable but there’s an important distinction between the three: diversity acknowledges our differences while equity seeks to ensure everyone has equal access to opportunities and advancement.
HR professionals need to understand the distinctions between diversity and inclusion as this will allow them to craft more targeted initiatives that make an impactful statement about company priorities. A company focused on diversity and inclusion may have multiple employee resource groups (ERGs) dedicated to discussing specific demographic issues facing employees – this may involve issues related to gender identity, sex orientation, age or religious belief among others.
To promote diversity and inclusion efforts, companies can do many things, from raising awareness to offering training courses and hosting regular community table talks that allow employees from different backgrounds to come together and share their experiences and perspectives. Another effective strategy for engaging employees with diversity and inclusion efforts is aligning them with executives – this can help leadership identify where challenges exist within the workplace and develop solutions to address them more efficiently.
An effective diversity and inclusion initiative ensures every employee feels valued and welcome within an organization, from entry level roles all the way up to management positions. Doing this increases employee engagement while simultaneously improving business performance.
McKinsey research from 2020 indicates that companies that prioritize diversity and inclusion tend to outperform their rivals, according to D&I experts from 2020. Furthermore, employees who feel as if they belong are more likely to engage with their jobs – leading to higher productivity rates and reduced absenteeism rates.
Companies should recognize the critical nature of Diversity & Inclusion to attract and retain top talent, with many Millennials and Gen Z workers considering an employment offer based on how well it supports diversity.
Affinity groups, also known as employee resource groups (ERGs), bring together employees with similar backgrounds or interests to form friendships and provide support to one another. Such groups help increase morale among employees who feel underrepresented, as well as making it easier for agencies to attract and retain candidates from underrepresented populations.
ERGs typically form around shared social identities such as race or gender, but can also include shared hobbies, beliefs or demographic factors like age or veteran status. ERG membership may be open or closed and volunteer or paid options available.
As well as improving morale and building connections, affinity groups can also play an integral role in helping employers create more inclusive workplaces by providing safe spaces where employees feel free to discuss sensitive topics that they might otherwise avoid addressing directly. This can lead to greater understanding between perspectives and experiences that fosters collaboration and problem-solving; furthermore they serve as valuable sources of ideas for innovation and growth: research indicates that teams comprised of diverse members are more adept at coming up with creative solutions than homogenous teams.
However, creating and running an effective ERG requires time and effort. It is crucial that an organization has clear mission and goals for the ERG as it seeks to promote more diversity and inclusion at work – such as setting regular meetings, sharing resources and making sure all members can contribute effectively.
Be mindful of potential conflicts and tensions within and between groups. Affinity groups must work towards open dialogue and cooperation while working alongside other groups to offer mutual support and assist each other as needed. An affinity group can also assist in preventing issues of discrimination or harassment from arising in the workplace – something essential to creating an inclusive work environment. One key benefit is giving individuals the power to stand up for themselves and take steps toward taking positive actions on behalf of themselves and others. Emily Dech found great satisfaction in creating an affinity group for teachers of color in her district, and thereby being able to address some of their frustrations while channeling it toward more constructive activities like researching resources for teaching students with disabilities.
Establishing an inclusive workplace culture and achieving workplace equity require comprehensive diversity training programs. Employees who feel valued and supported at work tend to be more engaged and productive, and companies with diverse and inclusive cultures are better able to address challenges, recruit top talent and meet diversified customer demands.
But despite its importance, many employees remain negative towards efforts to promote racial, ethnic and gender equality in the workplace. Only about half of employed U.S adults agree with that focussing on diversity, equity and inclusion as being good; opinions differ depending on demographic and political considerations.
Diversity, equity and inclusion should not just be seen as “nice-to-haves”, but as essential components of thriving organizations. Employees treated fairly and with respect are more likely to remain loyal employees who feel respected within their workplace, staying longer at companies that recognize their contributions. Furthermore, businesses considered equitable by employees, customers, communities or shareholders often experience higher profits.
Training sessions may focus on various aspects of DEI or it could take on more general approaches that address company culture as a whole. Either way, all staff (including management) should participate actively so they can share input about ways to alter current company cultures and implement needed adjustments that improve employee experiences.
One of the key elements of employee training is teaching employees to recognize and address unconscious bias within themselves and among their coworkers. Unconscious bias is defined as assumptions or beliefs held unknowingly that have an adverse impact on decisions and behavior, although many may remain unconscious to this reality. Training to address unconscious bias may include coaching sessions or role-playing scenarios which demonstrate how unconsciously applied biases may be corrected.
Inclusion training can be provided via various techniques, such as mentoring programs, discussion groups centered around shared identities, or training on how to run meetings so all ideas are heard equally. SkillPath and Catalyst both offer online platforms which offer courses, webinars and workshops which employees can access any time or place.